a senator, some birds, & the art of adulting

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet DL, Guest Writer #2 (of 12). Over the course of my lifetime, I have learned much from GW#2… many nuggets of wisdom, such as… “Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” DL has always encouraged me to love and learn from both the like and the different.…]


Books have been a passion of mine ever since I learned to read. As a child I pulled the covers over my head and used a flashlight so my mother could not see light under my door.  (Apparently that did not work because later she claimed that’s why I wear glasses.) I like many genres… Kent Krueger mysteries… especially Ordinary Grace, anything by Charles Martin, books worth re-reading…A Man Called Ove, bios like Hillbilly Elegy, or books written to identify/educate about societal issues. 

A recent read on that topic still resonates: The Vanishing American Adult by Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. Now before you quit reading because of a “Oh, no, not a politician,” wait a minute. Sasse is not a raving, blinder-wearing partisan yeller; he is a common-sense former Midwest university president who shares his observations on how to rear self-reliant kids to become mature, responsible adults instead of youth who prefer the Peter Pan syndrome. But more later.

Recently for several weeks I was privileged to observe a nature lesson. Our front porch is a covered recessed area protected from the elements. On one wall I have hung an all-season wreath. One day I discovered that a dove had chosen this as an ideal place to build her nest and lay her eggs where she and they would be sheltered and protected. Daily I observed her faithful dedication to parenting. I never saw her leave the nest, even when I stepped out to check out the situation. She just gazed at me as if sensing that I was an interested party, not an intruder, she being a grateful leaser of the porch. Then one day I saw two tiny heads peeking out from under her breast. Her faithful care continued until I saw what must have been a “now-is-the-time” moment. She flew from the nest, but perched herself on the porch so she could watch her babies peek over the nest with what must have been their “Now what?” curiosity. I imagined the faithful mama encouraging them: “It’s okay. You can do it. It is time to leave the nest, to step out and fly out into the world, to accept what nature has planned… yes, to FLY!” It seemed as if they needed that encouragement, and then one morning one of them launched out of the nest to land awkwardly on the porch. Soon the second tried the same floundering mechanics of flight, with both Mama and now Papa perched nearby, not to take over but to help them in the next phase of their maturity. They knew their role as parents.

Back to Senator Sasse…

Are you familiar with the “helicopter” parents who feel obligated to intrude in any issue of growth or the parents who sit on the bleachers to berate the coaches if their child is not a starter? I recall my own experience with a parent who demanded that her gifted high school junior not be forced to use an American history text because it depicted some less admirable aspects of our history or parents who asked me not to count a missed assignment or to excuse plagiarism. How about the parents who have bribed universities to admit their darlings regardless of merit, hence denying a qualified applicant that place in the admission process? Or how about the world of academia that refuses to have speakers whose messages may upset the apparent virgin ears of students, or youth who feel called to violent dissent because they disagree with the message? I thought college was to create opportunities for critical thinking, not coddling. 

It is not just education, but government programs and society also seem to encourage enabling, not emancipation. As a result, we have entered a new word in out vocabulary: “adulting”… a temporary role, and certainly not a permanent choice. The road to Neverland becomes the destination, instead of the road to responsible, self-discipled, achievement and work ethic that contributes to the well-being of both the individual and society. Senator Sasse not only describes this phenomenon but also suggests with a voice of reason what can negate this refusal to become a mature adult.

Mama and Papa Bird knew how to do this. Maybe we could learn from them.

P.S. You might also appreciate his newest book: Them: Why we Hate Each Other & How to Heal